A Thesis Oddyssey

Alejandro Torres Viera's thesis research about design culture in his native Puerto Rico and how to contribute to the creation of design awareness on the Island.
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    I was born and raised in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. An Island located in the Caribbean, east of Cuba and the Dominican Republic. It is a very nice place to live in with awesome weather all year long. Unfortunately, our present economic recession has made it almost impossible to live in Puerto Rico. With $70 billion in debt, and a 15% unemployment rate, the Island has seen a historic population decline. An average of 48 individuals leave the Island each day. According to the Center for a New Economy, this talent leak has cost Puerto Rico $3 billion. This exodus, along with other issues such as the homicide rate, is making the Island bleed to its death.

    The idea of the creative talent in the Island as the catalyst for economic and social change is generating more and more interest amongst the creative communities in Puerto Rico. However, outside of this circle, designers face many obstacles. Frustrated by this, I decided to pursue a Masters degree here at Pratt Institute, not only to become a good designer, but to better prepare myself for the task of contributing to the creation of better conditions so that the Communications Design industry in Puerto Rico can grow.

    The main issue that most designers can pinpoint is the lack of value for design that their clients and the general public have. Design is perceived as a luxury product rather than a necessity. There are people trying to change this perspective, with a series of proposals being presented to the Senate to better integrate the industry into the economy. This is a positive example of how the design industry in Puerto Rico is starting to make strides in the right direction. But while we wait for all this bureaucratic process to take place, what can we Puerto Rican designers do to keep the momentum going and contribute in a more direct way?

    As a Communications Designer, I believe in the power of creative thinking to change and transform the world in a positive way. I believe in the responsibility each designer has to use their unique problem solving skills for a greater good. Based on this belief I thought of 2 possible directions I’m interested in exploring.

    Direction 01:

    Emphatic and responsible Communications Design as a way to help bring economic activity to local businesses. I want to explore how can designers help local brands compete in the market. Instead of designing “for” local businesses, the emphasis should be in designing “with” local businesses. I want to explore the use of available local resources and platforms to communicate their ideas.

    Direction 02:

    Use Human Centered Design methodologies to solve social problems in Puerto Rico, at the same time educating the community on the benefits of good design. It is evident that Puerto Rico is in need for positive social change. My idea is to use HCD methods, and tailor them to the needs of the Island. By integrating the community in the design process, we can design truly useful and effective solutions. At the same time taking the role of educator to nurture “design literacy”.

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